Perhaps the most famous face of Canadian soccer, Dwayne De Rosario, was dropped for the Gold Cup and at his age, 35, this may be an understandable move. Canada has won the cup previously in 2000, but their failings in the CONCACAF region are plain to see; they have not made the last round of the qualifiers since 1998. Turning to unknown youth players may be a positive step, but a sudden jump into the cold water for many of these players may either encourage them or scar them forever.
Players to Watch – Simeon Jackson is known to most Premier League viewers when he is playing for Norwich City. The majority of his appearances came from the substitute’s bench this season, but he is a sharp player in front of goal and one of the few Canadians that has reached the top level through perseverance and an excellent goal scoring record in the Championship. Jackson, currently without a club, will also be playing for a new contract and this should motivate him further. Jonathan Osorio is another player that should shine at this Gold Cup. The young midfielder is not only a hometown hero at Toronto FC, his field of vision and range of passing is excellent. He generally plays in a traditional central midfielder role and gets into the box, but he can also be used on the wings.
Panama has an up-and-coming team and they should be able to challenge in the Gold Cup and perhaps even reach the semi-finals. The team is currently still competing for a World Cup spot and are fifth in the group of six with 6 points. If they can secure a fourth place finish, it will allow them to play a play-off game against New Zealand.
Panama is known as a baseball nation, but their recent success on the world stage in soccer is slowly converting the population. Their Gold Cup record in recent years has been very promising, reaching the semi-finals in 2011 after topping their group that included the United States. Unfortunately, the theme of this Gold Cup has been to leave the stars at home and this is exactly what Panama has done. With one eye on Brazil, they have opted to leave superstar Luis “Matador” Tejada behind in order to rest him for the upcoming qualification games against Honduras and Jamaica, both winnable games in the eyes of the Panamanians. Their squad, however, is not as depleted as Mexico’s having included many of their regular national team players.